Investigation Reveals Sleep Deprivation, Drug Use Amid Harsh Working Conditions at SpaceX

Workers would allegedly fall asleep in the bathrooms.

An investigation recently published by Reuters reported that the worker safety atmosphere at SpaceX led to employees sleeping in bathrooms, taking unprescribed Adderall and receiving IV fluids after working in temperatures that exceeded 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

According to six sources familiar with operations at SpaceX's manufacturing-and-launch facility near Brownsville, Texas, employees would work more than 80 hours per week to meet deadlines. Some workers figured they could accomplish more if they did not leave the facility and resorted to sleeping overnight at the site. Others turned to Adderall, a stimulant drug used to treat ADHD, despite not having a prescription.

Travis Carson, a former worker at the Brownsville location, said workers would also fall asleep in the bathrooms. Carson spent time as a welder in 2019 and 2020 and as a production supervisor in 2021 and 2022.

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When SpaceX began making rockets in tents near a Gulf of Mexico beach, the welders would reportedly work on rocket parts for up to 12 hours a day, six days a week, in temperatures higher than 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Sources said if the heat ever became too much, workers were given IV fluids so they could continue work. Sources added that, in the event of high winds, supervisors would close the tents, which disrupted ventilation. Phillip Fruge, a former welder, stated that he requested respirators from managers, used for safeguarding welders' lungs, but they were not supplied.

The Brownsville facility, which employs over 1,600 workers, has become the central point of SpaceX's Mars mission. However, in 2022, the location reportedly had the highest injury rate compared to other company sites at 4.8 injuries or illnesses per 100 workers.

Reuters’ evaluation of court documents, workers' compensation claims, medical records, emergency call records, and internal SpaceX injury logs also uncovered injuries across the entire company, including broken bones, crushed body parts, head injuries and amputations. 

Reuters also interviewed over two dozen current or former SpaceX employees. The news organization said it documented at least 600 injuries to SpaceX workers since 2014.

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